"The River was not Guilty"
Anthropomorphizing the Agency of Water and Expanding Solidarity
In September 2020, people gathered for a ceremony entitled "The river was not guilty" during the Week for Peace in Magdalena Medio, Colombia. In this event, people acknowledged the Magdalena River a victim of Colombia's armed conflict. Since mainly right-wing paramilitaries disposed of their victims in the river, it was turned into an accomplice. When agency is ascribed to a river, as both embracing murdered victims and later releasing them "in an act of solidarity" (Week for Peace 2020), we consider the river as a space of life, transformation, solidarity and death.
Beyond the many contested definitions (Bayertz 1999, Scholz 2008), as a relational concept and practice, solidarity describes a bond, an overlap of interests and support towards other individuals or groups. It is commonly motivated by shared values, the expectation of reciprocity, and thus, distinguished from related concepts like loyalty or justice (Hondrich & Koch-Arzberger 1992, Alexander 2006). However, the concept of solidarity runs the risk of excluding more-than-human entities and exclusively emphasizes human agency.
In our presentation, we take the case of the Magdalena River and the Week for Peace event as a departure point to reflect on some of the assumptions underpinning scholars' understanding of solidarity and on the implications of understanding the river as an agent (Luckmann 1980).
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